Supreme Court further defines teenagers' rights

US teenagers received a mixed message yesterday from the Supreme Court, which upheld their privacy rights in one action, but let stand a curfew opposed by some teens and parents as unconstitutional.

The high court refused to let a school district in Anderson, Ind., require that high school students suspended for disciplinary reasons take drug tests before returning to class.

The justices, without comment, let stand a ruling that struck down the requirement as a violation of students' privacy rights.

The court's denial of review may cloud the already-murky student drug-testing law. The high court ruled in a 1995 Oregon case that random drug tests of student athletes don't violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. And last October, the Supreme Court let another Indiana school district conduct random drug tests for all students participating in extracurricular activities. No court has ever condoned random drug testing of all public school students.

THE justices also let stand a ruling that said a Charlottesville, Va., curfew for minors is a valid tactic aimed at "reducing juvenile violence and crime."

A group of teenagers and their parents had sued, contending the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew, which took effect in 1997, violated teens' rights and deprived "parents of their historically fundamental right to direct the rearing of their children."

The curfew contains exceptions for minors who were accompanied by a parent, traveling from work or a school or religious function, or running a family errand - provided they had a note explaining they had their parents' permission to be out late. It also provided exceptions for minors "exercising First Amendment rights."

Most curfews for minors have been upheld in state and federal courts. The Supreme Court last addressed the issue in 1994, when it upheld a Dallas curfew. Yesterday's denial of review in the Charlottesville case may encourage other communities to adopt similar ordinances.

Because yesterday's actions were not decisions, they set no precedents.

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